Over forty of the UK’s top touring theatre companies have today announced further details for Signal Fires, a collective touring initiative that will see new work staged UK-wide throughout October and November. The project, conceived by Headlong and English Touring Theatre, brings together some of the most exciting and diverse touring companies to tour a single idea at a time when traditional touring isn’t possible.
Each company involved in the project will self-produce an evening of work – a signal fire – at a different location from Devon to Inverness in celebration of our fundamental need to tell stories, in order to help make sense of the world around us and reimagine the future.
The project will see new work from Mike Bartlett and Alissa Anne Jeun Yi (English Touring Theatre); Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Chloe Moss, and Ella Carmen Greenhill (Headlong); Kiki Katese, Alice Oswald, Hema Palani, Will Power, Kim Scott and Sara Shaarawi (Fuel); Rob John (fEAST Theatre); Beth Flintoff (Proteus); Yolanda Mercy, Chinonyerem Odimba, Koko Brown, Lakesha Arie-Angelo and Lekhani Chirwa (45North); Houmi Miura, Chris Shapiro, Jasmine Chong, Mei Yuk Wong and Anna Nguyen (Yellow Earth); Simon Longman (Kestrel Theatre); Asma Elbadawi, Charley Miles, Zoe Cooper and Maureen Lennon (Pilot Theatre); Nassim Soleimanpour, Josh Merritt, Tricia Wey, Sky Yang, Samantha O’Rourke, Conor Hunt, Natasha Brown, Lauren Lopez and Steffi Igbinovia (Boundless); Maya Arad Yasur, Stephanie Street and Kimber Lee (Actors Touring Company) and Sarah Gonnet (Graeae).
Working with hundreds of UK freelancers, each company’s Signal Fire will be different from the last, spanning different disciplines and reflecting the breadth and diversity of the touring circuit. Some will be presented outdoors in front of socially-distanced live audiences, whilst others will be digital in format for those who are shielding or currently unable to travel.
What was buried in the past will be unearthed, Headlong has commissioned chilling new tales to be told by the fire-side, including performances by some of the North West’s finest actors at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church in Liverpool. ETT have commissioned three artists to write and perform original stories and share them in their local communities of Oxford, Kent and Brighton for audiences gathered around fires. Told over three nights by firelight in Dartington Woods, Devon, and over the phone for a week for audiences isolating by their own firesides at home in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland, Fuel will present five short works by international and local writers.
Actors Touring Company will send out letters of hope, composed by three international writers, to people across the UK along with a tealight and instructions to create small intimate performances of domestic theatre. In the car park of a YMCA in Scarborough, Pilot Theatre will present Northern Girls, eight new stories exploring what it means to be a northern woman in 2020. Slung Low have invited story-tellers, poets and musicians to gather around a bonfire lit in front of The Holbeck Working Men’s Club, to tell tales lit by the flames. Four fictional stories by Simon Longman, inspired and performed by men who have been through the criminal justice system, will be presented by Kestrel Theatre in Asthall, Oxfordshire. Created by Nassim Soleimanpour and eight powerful writers, Boundless will send fifty Signal Fires, in sealed envelopes, to young adults across the UK which will see storytelling rituals reborn.
Audiences will be invited to join Graeae for a virtual bonfire and night of celebration led by Deaf and disabled artists, which will feature accessible live storytelling and a sing-and-sign-along, all of which will be captioned and BSL interpreted. Yellow Earth will take audiences on a walking tour of performances through Manchester, passing the torch from the past to the present and looking towards the future. Using contemporary theatre, music, rural stories and fires, Paines Plough and Pentabus will stage six pieces of work from their lockdown collaboration Come to Where I Am by firelight at a historic working farm. National Youth Theatre will stage the first ever performance in a newly built earth amphitheatre lit by fire pits.
In light of the current crisis, the signal fires will create beacons across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland warning of the threat the industry continues to face while celebrating the extraordinary vibrancy of touring theatre and the freelancers they engage. Stretching across four nations, this festival of fires will connect audiences, freelance artists and touring companies together in a communal, national act of storytelling.
The health and safety of audiences, artists, creative teams and staff alike is of the upmost importance. All companies involved in the project will implement COVID secure measures to ensure that their full process, from rehearsal to performance, is in line with the current government guidelines, following strict hygiene protocols and allowing for social distancing.
Signal Fires will run throughout October and into November across the UK. For further information visit www.signalfires.co.uk